Pharmacy on the Frontlines: Starting a Conversation about Mental Health


On Wednesday, March 31st, 2021 the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pharmacy Alumni Association, and Alberta Pharmacists' Association (RxA) hosted a virtual panel discussion about providing mental health supports in the profession of pharmacy. 

The presentation/webinar offered communication tips and patient assessment tools for pharmacists, so we are better equipped to provide mental health assistance to our patients. Watch the recorded event below.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Albertans in many ways, but it has particularly driven a rise in mental health issues in the community. Financial stress, caregiver burnout and the widespread uncertainty associated with this unprecedented time are some of the potential culprits of mental health crises. As pharmacists on the frontlines, we are aptly positioned to identify patients who may be suffering from poor mental health in the community. Early identification of mental health issues allows us to make early interventions and provide resources for patients requiring mental health support. Learning how to open a conversation on mental health is a skillset best honed in practice, but rarely do we get formal training on this topic. 

Ron Pohar, Panelist


Ron Pohar completed a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree at the University of Alberta in 1995 and graduated with distinction. He has 25 years of experience as Clinical Pharmacist in Edmonton’s inner city and specializes in the areas of smoking cessation, mental health, and geriatrics and provides onsite clinical pharmacy services, including specialized smoking cessation, addictions, and mental health services, to patients at a number of facilities.

Over the years, Ron has developed and delivered many print and live continuing education programs for pharmacists and other healthcare providers on a number of mental health topics, including depression, schizophrenia, and specific drug topics (e.g., atypical antipsychotics, clozapine). 

Essi Salokangas, Panelist


Essi is a clinical pharmacist with a passion for improving health outcomes in structurally vulnerable populations using evidence-based practice, empathy, and relationship-based care. A University of Alberta 2016 alumni, Essi went on to co-found the Adherence & Community Engagement (ACE) Team, a pharmacist-led interdisciplinary outreach team, and is now the first clinical pharmacist on the Addiction Recovery and Community Health (ARCH) Team, an addiction medicine consult service at the RAH.

Chris McRee, Panelist


Chris McRee (BSc Specialization Genetics, BSc Pharm, RPh, APA) is a Clinical Pharmacist who works with patients from all walks of life as an integral part of the interdisciplinary based Acute Mental Health Team at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta.

As a clinician, Chris believes that the treatment of mental health needs to be approached from a patient first perspective of education and autonomy. Complimentary to this, utilizing the talents and training of a wide multitude of medical professionals will result in the most positive of outcomes. Over the last 19 years, Chris has garnered the respect of his patients, colleagues, and students by providing exceptional care in the pharmacological treatment of the full range of mood and psychosis related disorders including treatment resistant depression.

Stephanie Gysel, Panelist


Stephanie is a graduate of the BSc. Pharm program in 2009 from the University of Alberta and the PharmD program in 2020. She has worked as a pharmacy manager since graduation and in 2020 was appointed as the vice-president of pharmacy operations for western Canada with SRx Health. Stephanie is passionate about practicing to the full pharmacist scope and creating novel community pharmacy programs that fill gaps in our health care system.

Ravina Sanghera, Moderator


Ravina Sanghera is the Assistant Dean of Student Services and a Clinical Associate Professor with the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Alberta. She received her undergraduate pharmacy degree at the University of Alberta and PharmD through the University of Colorado (Denver). She has practiced in community pharmacy for over 10 years and currently has a practice focused in Dermatology at Rejuvenation Dermatology Clinics in Edmonton.